Understanding The Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls…

In Paul Little’s book Know Why You Believe, he spends a lot of time discussing the Dead Sea Scrolls as a way to prove the reliability of the Bible.

Because I studied history in college, I have always heard about these scrolls but like a lot of Christians, I really don’t know what they are.

So here is what they are according to Wikipedia. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of some 981 different texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 in eleven caves in the immediate vicinity of the ancient settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank.  The caves are located about 2 kilometers inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name.

Why are they so significant? The answer to this question goes to yesterday’s post—comparability.

Josh McDowell [a staunch defender of Biblical reliability] states that if you asked a Biblical scholar for a dream discovery for Old Testament study he would state “Older witnesses to the original Old Testament manuscripts.”

When you think about this, you begin to understand how we can make factual statements about the reliability of the Old Testament.

Before these famous scrolls were discovered, the oldest copy of the Old Testament dated from the 10th Century.

We knew it had been copied over and over many times by the time copies were made in the 10th Century.  Were these copies reliable?

Get this fact folks: with this single discovery, the Old Testament copies went back in time 1,000 years.

Dedicated skeptics can still say “You don’t have the original texts!”

That is true but we do have awesome comparability.

Why is that important?

It proves accuracy. It proves the sacred nature of the text for the copyists.  They knew they were working on something that is just not another book.

One of the scrolls was the complete book of Isaiah. Paleographers date the scroll to 125 B.C.  Scholar Gleason Archer says “Isaiah copies…proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text.  The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.”  Millar Barrows adds “It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration.”

Let’s pause a moment and think about what we have with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Let’s let it “soak in” about why they are important for the defense of the Old Testament.

Sure, if a skeptic says to you “You don’t have the original manuscripts of the Old Testament” you have to be truthful. You have to say, “We don’t.”

But what do we have?   We have factual evidence that the Bible is very probably the most accurate printed document in the world.  Even though original manuscripts do not exist, what copies we have are amazingly accurate.

Biblical study of the Old Testament has been greatly enhanced due to this discovery in 1947. Conclusions about the Old Testament have been greatly enhanced.  Pre-Christian writing of God’s ancient Word has been made more intelligible for the modern reader.

Now you know.

In February of 1947 when the Bedouin shepherd boy named Muhammad went searching for his lost goat, he changed the world of Biblical scholarship. He tossed a stone into a hole in the cliff on the west side of the Dead Sea.  When the stone went into the hole, to his surprise he heard the sound of shattering pottery.  When he investigated where the stone had gone, he opened a hole in the cliff and entered a cavern where several large jars contained leather scrolls wrapped in linen cloth.  The jars were sealed.  Because of that, they were in excellent condition, having existed for 1,900 years.

F.G. Kenyon in his book Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts writes about the reliability of the Old Testament:  “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear and hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries.”

Like me, maybe you have heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls.   You know that the documents are revered by many so you know to have respect for them.  Maybe no one explained them.  Maybe no one told you of their importance.

As Christians we ought to know because this information can bolster our faith. As Christians we ought to know because this information can help us defend our faith.



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